Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission announced on Monday five conditions to hold early parliamentary elections in June 2021.
It issued a statement shortly after the country’s highest Shiite authority, Ali al-Sistani, voiced his support for holding the polls during a meeting with United Nations envoy Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert.
The Commission said it welcomed Sistani’s position, saying it will be ready to stage the elections “once its conditions, which it has frequently stipulated, are met.”
It demanded that the parliament approve an electoral law “as soon as possible” and that it complete the legislation of the Federal Supreme Court. It also demanded that the government prepare the budget to hold the elections and that it approve the appointment of general directors elected by the Board of Commissioners. It also called on the United Nations and other concerned international organizations to assist in the electoral process and provide the necessary supervision to ensure that they are transparent.
President Barham Salih expressed his support for Sistani’s stance.
“Next year’s elections are fateful and must meet the necessary conditions that allow its results to be credible,” he said after receiving Hennis-Plasschaert in the city of al-Sulaymaniyah on Sunday.
He also stressed the need to implement the government’s policy statement in achieving social justice, cracking down on criminals, combating corruption, boosting the security forces and restoring the authority of the state and limiting the possession of arms to it.
Salih said the elections can be held once the electoral law is approved. Such a law should ensure real representation of all Iraqis and reflects their will to freely elect their representatives.
The results of the polls will consequently reflect the people’s desire for change and ensure that they are properly represented in government and at parliament, he added.
Another important element of the elections is ensuring that they are transparent, he remarked, stressing the need to take strict measures that thwart any voter fraud.
Sistani said on Sunday that the upcoming elections “are of great importance.”
Iraqis should be encouraged to participate "widely," he added, while warning that failing to hold the polls on time or in a free and fair way would "threaten the unity and future of Iraq's people."
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi had announced in late July that Iraq would hold parliamentary elections nearly a year early, seeking to make good on one of the main promises he made when he came to power earlier this year.
On whether the elections will meet the people’s expectations, MP Aras Habib Karim told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The conditions set by Sistani demand all parties, forces and blocs to adopt them as a roadmap.”
“Everyone must commit to these conditions,” he added, while also highlighting the Commission’s demands.
Head of Iraq’s Advisory Council, Farhad Alaaldin, appeared skeptical over the polls, predicting the political powers will resort to stalling despite Sistani’s clear backing of the elections.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat the elections will likely be held in 2021, but they will probably be postponed to the fall.